Can New York Ban Solitary Confinement in Prisons State-Wide?

A new bill proposed in New York City would ban solitary confinement of incarcerated individuals in city jails. Can New York enforce that statewide?

As NBC News’ Erik Ortiz reports, the New York City bill has the support of at least two-thirds of the city’s legislative body. The bill would prohibit holding incarcerated individuals in isolation for more than two hours during the day in a 24-hour period or eight hours at night for sleep. At most, detained individuals may he kept in isolation for up to four hours to reduce conflict if the detained individual poses an immediate danger to another person.

The bill would only apply to New York City jails but it could be a concept that spreads statewide as Governor Kathy Hochul recently made changes to the state’s prison system. In early August, Governor Hochul signed two bills related to the prison system, one of which changed the terminology used for people in prison from “prisoners” to “incarcerated individuals , and another extends the hours of community supervision programs such as substance abuse treatment to non-work hours for parolees who may have difficulty attending those programs and keeping their jobs.

The premise of the New York City bill is to combat what lawmakers and prisoner advocates say is traumatic and inhumane treatment. Councilwoman Carlina Rivera told Ortiz in the report that “Solitary confinement, no matter what you call it, is traumatic and inhumane, with lethal effects on mental health and safety for all.” Lawmakers and inmate advocates have also called for an overhaul of the city’s jail system.

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